Paint and Stain Applicators

Paint & Stain Applicators A new coat of paint or a beautiful stain can make an old room look new or turn a few pieces of simple wood into an heirloom. Whether you are painting walls or varnishing a craft project, you must always start with the right applicators to ensure a high-quality finished product. Different applicators are suited specifically to different mediums and surfaces and it is likely that you would need more than an applicator to complete most tasks.

Before you learn about your options, use the following questions to start assessing your project needs:

• Will you be applying paint, stain, varnish, lacquer or shellac?
• Do you use water-based or oil-based paints and stains?
• Will you be covering large surfaces?
• Will you be edging or painting corners? 



Types, Applications and Care

When it comes to shopping for applicators, you have got choices of all shapes, sizes, speeds and prices. Believe it or not, selecting the right applicator is just as important as selecting the right paint, stain or finish. Using the correct tools for your project will help save you time and effort while achieving professional-quality results.
Rollers: : Standard rollers are great for painting or staining large surfaces quickly, such as walls. Smaller sized rollers and specialty rollers are also available for hard-to-reach areas, corners and rounded or unusual surfaces. When used correctly, rollers will yield a smooth, uniform finish. Roller covers are available in a wide variety of materials and naps for help in achieving different effects.
A longer nap holds more paint but yields a rougher finish. A longer nap is also capable of getting into cracks and crevices on rough surfaces, such as stucco. For a smooth finish with semi-gloss paint, a short nap is recommended.

• A cover with a resin-impregnated craft paper core holds up much better than cardboard or plastic
• Consult our Roller Cover Buying Guide for detailed information on choosing a roller cover 

Power Rollers: Power rollers carry their own paint supply and continuously pump paint into the roller for a fresh supply with every application. If you have large areas to cover with a single color, a power roller is likely to save you a lot of time and effort. Power rollers require a little more hands-on care and need to be disassembled and cleaned prior to switching colors or before you store them away. Since the cleaning process can be time consuming, they are best suited to bigger jobs.

• Power rollers eliminate the time and bending associated with loading paint on a standard roller
• Due to a more involved cleaning process, power rollers are recommended for large areas of single-color 

Sprayers: Most sprayers are designed for large jobs and can usually be used with any type of paint or stain. Sprayers create a uniform coating with a smooth finish for professional-looking results. These too are recommended for larger, single-color paint jobs due to the required care, setup and maintenance involved. Paint sprayers make it easier to get into cracks and crevices, so they are ideal for fences, decks, siding and more.

• Overspray can be a problem with sprayers, so they are most often used outside
• Consult our Sprayers Buying Guide to learn which one may be right for you

Pads and Edgers: Like rollers, pads are available in 9" widths to cover large surfaces. Pads eliminate the splatter associated with rollers, but they also don’t hold as much paint. This means you may have to make more frequent trips to the paint tray. Large pads are good for making straight edges along baseboards and ceilings, as well as painting wall corners. Smaller pads designed specifically for edging often have guide wheels that run along the adjacent surface to create clean, even edges. Pads are also useful in staining floors and other flat surfaces.

• 9" pads are preferable to rollers when reducing splatter is more critical than speed
• Smaller pads create a precise edge around windows, door frames, baseboards and more 

Foam Applicators: Brush-style foam applicators can be very precise in painting details and edging, as well as staining. They are inexpensive and can handle water- or oil-based paints and stains. Because of their extreme versatility, foam applicators are always good to have around. Brush-style foam applicators are designed for covering smaller areas and for more detailed finishing. Roller covers are also available in foam and perform very well for large surface coverage.

• Foam applicators are useful for painting details and edges, as well as applying stain and varnish
• Foam holds a lot of paint and offers good control over the amount applied simply by varying the pressure 

Brushes: Depending on the bristle type, brushes may be better suited to certain applications than others. Natural bristles are recommended for oil-based paints and stains and should never be used with water-based paints or stains. Most brushes with synthetic bristles can be used with both water-based and oil-based paints and stains, but brushes with nylon bristles are not recommended for use with lacquer or shellac.

• Natural brushes are recommended for oil-based paints and stains, while synthetic brushes are
  recommended for water-based stains
• For detailed information that will help you choose the right brush for each task, check out our Brushes 
  Buying Guide 

Rags: Rags are the traditional tools used to apply stains. Rags aren’t as fast as brushes or foam applicators, but they do produce a more even finish. You might probably need to apply stain in multiple layers when using a rag. This produces a uniform look and gives you more control over how dark the color turns out. You don’t need a special rag to apply stain, just a clean, lint-free rag. Rags are also used to apply penetrating oil for a traditional hand-rubbed finish.

• For furniture and trim, a rag is a cheap, effective way to apply stain
• For larger surfaces, such as floors and decks, rollers and pads are much faster 

Textured Applicators: Textured applicators are used to help you create interesting effects with your paint on furniture, walls, ceilings and more. Textured applicators can take the form of rollers or pads. Texture kits offer multiple tools with the same texture effect, so you can cover large surfaces, edges and trim work

• Textured applicators can be used to create amazing faux finishes
• Use multiple colors for different effects, such as painting a texture over a different color base coat


Recommended Applicators

Painting Edges and Corners • Pad
• Angled brush
• Foam applicator
Painting Furniture and Trim • 4" roller
• Brush
• Foam applicator
Painting Large Surfaces • 9" roller
• Power roller
• 9" pad
• 3" or 4" brush
Staining Furniture and Trim • Brush
• Foam applicator
• 4" roller
• Rag
Staining Large Surfaces • 9" roller
• Pad
• Sprayer
• 3" or 4" brush

Maintenance and Care: High-quality applicators usually yield better results, producing a smooth, even finish in less time. Low-quality applicators are slow, frustrating to work with and cost more to replace in the long run. When properly cared for, high-quality applicators can last for years to come, saving you money over time and making your projects more enjoyable and better looking.
Read the manufacturer recommended cleaning and storage instructions for each of your applicators as they vary for different types and brands. Brushes for example, should be stored in their original packaging to help them retain their shapes.

• Clean your applicators as soon as you finish using them — never leave them soaking in water 
  or solvent
• It is best to hang your applicators for storage, so they don’t become misshapen or matted


Threaded Handle: Rollers and pads with a threaded handle allow you to attach an extension rod to them, making it easier to stain floors, paint ceilings and more with less bending, climbing and reaching.
Comfortable Grip: Look for applicators that feel well-balanced and are comfortable to hold. This will enhance your control and reduce fatigue, especially on longer painting jobs.